“Oh Chikirina,” an old woman yelled in Lazish, a dying language of the Black Sea region in Turkey. “Oh Chikirina,” she shouted affectionately as she watched her grandchildren run around playing with each other.
Two decades later I interview one of these children in Istanbul. The now 23 year old passes me a square business card with the word Chikirina splashed across its front.
The pilates inspired active wear collection, Chikirina, is the newest brand to launch specifically into the Turkish market for the modern, urban and busy women of Istanbul.
Stand next to an Istanbul ferry pier and countdown the last minute till departure, then observe the hoards of Istanbulites that sprint past in an attempt to make it onboard. The city seems to constantly roll at this speed.
“In Istanbul people live life on the go. People are constantly moving. Everyone is running everywhere from point A to point B to point C.” Janelle
Janelle Berberoğlu, a 23 year old American, together with cousin and business partner Fulya Müftüoğlu, has designed and launched a pilates clothing label purely for the Turkish market that embraces the rush of Istanbul with the needs of the modern woman – The brand is ‘Chikirina’.
Chikirina uses the city and its people as inspiration for its brand development and design style, embracing the independent woman who has many commitments and may leave the house at 7am and not return till 11pm.
She says, “It’s for someone who fitness is important to them, but it’s not their whole life. They have commitments outside of pilates and the gym. They are extremely busy and active but also trendy.”
The launch of Chikirina includes an essentials collection of leggings and workout tops and future plans will introduce more layering pieces and jackets which will make the brand even more adaptable for the active woman.
“We didn’t want to throw something into the market that was too advanced for our first collection. We wanted to establish the essentials to everything in bright colours. And then the next range we want to experiment a bit more with prints, patterns and back detailing.” Janelle
On the eve of the Chikirina launch Janelle had the pilates range delivered to a store in the upmarket İstinye Park shopping centre. It was 10pm and the stores were closing. She tells me two women were walking past and came in and were going through the boxes wanting to buy some Chikirina designs before they had even made it out of the packaging.
It is reactions like this that speak of a quality collection.
Janelle also mentions an impromptu photo shoot with Turkish magazine publication ‘Formsante’.
She says they loved the brand so much that they re-organised a photo shoot so that the sports model was dressed in Chikirina and then continued with a styling shoot that placed the brand alongside sporting greats NIKE, Adidas and New Balance.
A Turkish local who usually buys NIKE attire for running is 30 year old Yeşim. But, Yeşim tells me she is also a pilates fanatic and is now extremely happy to finally have a brand that is especially focused on the pilates niche and tailored to the Turkish market. She says Chikirina has comfortable, quality designed textiles and the energetic name also caught her attention.
Janelle explains the business model saying both her and cousin Fulya discussed and agreed the brand should spread organically through word of mouth.
The above consumer and media reactions tell me that people must have already started talking, and it appears now we can’t get them to stop.
Janelle reminisces about her annual trips as a child from America to Turkey with her Turkish father. It is in these stories that she explains her grandmother lovingly shouting “Oh Chikirina” to the grandchildren.
This anecdote surfaced during a family meeting when they were initially trying to create a brand name. It was important for them to link the family business to fond childhood memories. The catchy name is the clever result.
I imagine starting a business in a city as challenging as Istanbul. Janelle assures me it is not easy. “This city teaches you that you can’t plan everything. Living here you accept that. You have to have open minds towards so many things. All we can do is learn.”
“I always remember to appreciate Istanbul when I am up early on Sunday mornings. There is nobody around and you feel like you have the city to yourself which is amazing and a feeling you rarely get.” Janelle
Before we finish our meeting over coffee there is one more thing I need to know.
Chikirina?? What was the grandmother saying?!
Janelle laughs and says just three words to me.
“Skinny little girl”.
This is a brand that is not only catchy in its four syllable sound but also charismatic in story.
Written by Sheldon Heyes
There are 8 sales points and one online sales site at www.lidyana.com
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